In our everyday lives, we all face deadlines. Work deadlines, school deadlines, tax deadlines. Everything seems to have a point that we have to be finished with it.
In general, with hobby and indie game dev, with the exception of making games for contests, deadlines are a thing that aren’t really forced on you from the outside world. But deadlines are important. Yes, there are the strong few who can plug along on a game consistently for months without any deadlines, but they are like unicorns.
For the rest of us, we need deadlines, and without the outside world to impose them on us, we need to impose them on ourselves. So how should we organize our deadlines?
Start with a Plan
Write down everything you need to get through with to get your game done. Organize it in the order it needs to get done. Now write the dates you think you should get done with each of them.
Now ignore that. Assume you are an idiot, and everything will take about twice as long. Now write the dates down spread out to twice as long. The general idea, 1 hour of gameplay on average will take you 100 hours of work. Of course, the first hour of the game, with getting all your systems down, is going to take longer, and the later hours will take slightly less time as you have most of your framework in place, but on average, this will be pretty accurate.
You will also forget things you need to do, so adding in that extra time in your original plan is good to slide those in. And finally, you need to be able to rest. Outside of crunch time for a contest, you shouldn’t be working on your game 24/7. Your brain doesn’t work optimally when you aren’t sleeping or even taking breaks.
Now that you have a plan, how do you use it?
When you look at a deadline, don’t think “well, I can work on that tomorrow, I don’t have a deadline until next week”. Don’t be the guy writing an article about deadlines at 5:40AM the day it needs to be finished and oh, man, the evil daystar will soon raise and burn my eyes, and please have pity on me.
… I mean, uh. Yeah, don’t procrastinate. Try to make progress towards your deadlines every day. Or nearly every day. One day off a week is sometimes necessary for recharging, but if you start taking multiple days, you need to rethink your schedule.
Missed Deadlines are a Time to Think
If you ever miss a deadline, it is not the time to bash yourself. It is the time to identify why you missed the deadline. Don’t make excuses. Be honest with yourself.
Was it just an unrealistic goal? Did you not realize how much work a part of your game was? How do you need to adjust the rest of your schedule with what you have now learned?
Did other things in your life interfere? You had to pick up extra shifts at your real job? Had a baby? An Illness? You want to not use these as excuses, but they can be reasons. If you use them as excuses, you will use them all the time.
Was it because you were lazy? How are you going to fix that? Its not the time to be angry with yourself, its the time to fix it.
Met deadlines are a Time to Celebrate
Every met deadline is a new opportunity to congratulate yourself. Don’t go overboard, you don’t need a swollen head, but maybe take a day off (but only one!), maybe you should go out to get a dinner that isn’t warmed in a microwave, maybe you need to go watch that new movie that came out.
But remember, once you are done with your celebration, there is an new deadline to meet around the corner.
Do you set deadlines for yourself on your projects? How do you interact with them? When you miss them are you angry? When you make them do you celebrate? Do you find they do any good? Join us in the comments section below.